McBride-Eastbound-And-Down

“Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood.”

That quote may seem familiar to you because it’s from Dante’s Inferno, or because it was recently used in the past season of Mad Men to describe Don Draper’s troubles. I was reminded of it at the end of this week’s (and possibly the last) Eastbound and Down as Kenny punches up his movie script ending and squeezes the baseball on his desk before it cuts to black and the song “Must have got lost” by J. Geils Band plays.

Although Kenny Powers journey is probably far less complicated then Don Draper’s, he is certainly in his own version of Dante’s Inferno. If you aren’t familiar with Dante’s Inferno, it’s about a man’s journey through the 9 circles of hell; Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and finally Treachery. While we’ve seen Kenny Powers go through all these with due diligence, it’s here in the finale that we see the ninth circle, Treachery, is where he draws the line.

After Kenny’s Anti-Christmas tirade, we all assumed he would promptly be kicked from his TV show, but he is instead being rewarded by the head of the Network, Ronnie Thelman, played by the always amazing Sacha Baron Cohen. Although I was ecstatic to see Cohen (because he’s a freaking genius), his character just seemed in the way of the story at hand, and they never give him anything to outlandish to say or do, which is really his forte, but his intro to the episode will be up there with the best eastbound cold opens.

Ronnie bequeaths Kenny a new talk show under the condition that he bring Guy Young on and do an exclusive interview. New and Improved Kenny Powers decides it’s a good idea, because Guy deserves a second chance for giving Kenny one. But this is where things get muddy in the episode. Kenny is told right before the show starts that he’s not actually going to let Guy Young apologize, but that he’s supposed to ambush him and destroy him once again in front of the audience.

On the divorce front, things actually seem better, Kenny successfully convinces April to give him a week before they decide to make the divorce official. They attend his son’s play about Johnny Appleseed, in which his son is the star. This is the most pivotal moment in the episode, and it almost passed by me on first view.

The kids in the play declare that Johnny Appleseed’s legacy will live on forever because of the seeds he’s planted, and Kenny seems awestruck. It never occurred to him that his legacy could be his children, and not baseball, and he’s so moved he even turns to a woman in the audience to declare “my son is the main star in the play, his part is more important then all the other children”. So we see hope in Kenny, that maybe his aggressive, egotistical behavior could be turned into support for his children.

But as Kenny begins to care less about fame and glory, he finds it more difficult to do his job. How can he go on TV and commit treachery on Guy Young when he has kids? Instead he decides to use his time on TV to make a speech about how he’s lost his way, and treated everyone in his life poorly, and that now that has cost him his family. He then promptly walks off stage so he can go tell his children goodbye, as April has decided to move to Santa Fe, and get divorced from Kenny.

But he once again makes a rousing speech about how he’s changed, and April decides to take him back. So the episode ends in a very strange montage of what the rest of Kenny’s life is like, (which involves his kids graduating, April being shot and killed, and then moving to Africa to raise african children), before revealing that it’s all just a snappier ending he’s written for his Screenplay. The last line of his screenplay declares that a man is truly remembered by his harvest, and although his is still unknown, he is pretty damn proud of the seeds he’s planted. It’s unclear what of the ending is real or un real, but I guess it doesn’t really matter.

It’s a nice little ending, and it has a couple good laughs, but in the end I felt a little let down. I’ve already seen Kenny make speeches about how he’s changed, I’ve already seen him win back April multiple times, and I’ve certainly seen him be treacherous. So in the end you have to suspend a little belief, you have to decide that Kenny has truly changed now. Is it as challenging of an ending as it seemed we were building to? No. Was it an embarrassment to the show? No.

I’m not too grumpy because Season 4 was very much a surprise, in it’s existence and quality. Although in my opinion the ending we almost got in Season 3 feels like it should have been the real ending, and that Season 4 existed in a state of dreams and fluffiness. Maybe Kenny did die in that car crash, and maybe this second chance he gets in season 4 is merely a purgatory rather then an inferno.

Side Notes:

  • What is this world these characters live in, where they say one bad thing on TV and their careers are over? I wish that were true in real life, but a lot of celebs do/say awful things and they are still on TV
  • Having an actual Mentally Challenged person play Stevie in Kenny’s movie was fantastic
  • Gene yelling at his wife during Kenny’s show was very bizarre, why are they all the sudden acting like that, I think it was supposed to be funny, but I felt it came out of nowhere, and I didn’t know how to feel about it